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COVID-19: Homeworking Health & Safety

The government has advised all employees to work from home unless it is not possible to do so.  As a result, many businesses’ entire workforce is now based at home. The drastic change to working practices throws up a number of challenges. In this note, we focus on the health & safety implications.

 

Whose Responsibility?

An employer continues to be responsible for its employees’ welfare, health and safety even when those employees are working at home. Employers are also responsible for any equipment provided to employees for use at home. Employees should take reasonable care of their own health and safety and should ensure that their employer is informed about any health and safety risks and/or changes that need to be made to their homeworking arrangements.

 

Extent of Duty

Under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 an employer’s duty is to ensure its employees’ health, safety and welfare so far as is reasonably practicable. In the context of homeworking, the duty remains the same although an employer’s control over the working environment will necessarily be lessened.

 

Practical Steps

The steps an employer needs to take will vary depending upon the specific circumstances of each case. Actions an employer should consider include:

  • Completing remote access workstation risk assessments
  • Asking all employees to advise if they need any additional equipment
  • Ensuring that an updated homeworking policy is available and that all staff are aware of its existence and have access to it
  • Ensuring that it has a list of the equipment being used by its employees at home
  • Checking that where necessary/appropriate reasonable adjustments are made for any disabled employees
  • Advising employees with regard to work/life balance
  • Speaking to employees regularly to check that they are coping with working in isolation and ensuring that they are aware of any external resources they may utilise if they feel that their mental health is suffering as a result of the new working arrangements

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